Games of 2014: Destiny

Destiny was a wonderful escape for me at a time when I really needed one. It’s a game that empowers you, but it never makes you feel like a superhero. You’re not the chosen one to save the world, you’re just one of many Guardians contributing to an ongoing fight; each of you a lone wolf in a futuristic wild west. I felt a weird connection with my avatar and after a while I realised it was because Destiny essentially casts you in the role of a freelancer: you take odd jobs to keep things ticking over, and the work never really ends. You complete one commission and when you’ve done them all you wake up the next day and there’s more to do. I know this, I thought. I can do this. And I did, and I could. I’ve never been brilliant at firstperson shooters, particularly online, but as with my writing I reached a certain level of competence. I was getting by.

It was the solitude, too. Sure, you might dance with or point at other Guardians at the Tower, but that’s the extent of your interactions. For the vast majority of your time in Destiny you’re going it alone. Even when you’re taking part in a strike or joining a public event, you never really feel part of a proper group: when it’s done, you go your separate ways. I’m an outsider in real life and I was in the game: as a writer away from the main hubs of Bath and London, I don’t get to spend much time with my peers beyond the odd Twitter exchange, or if I’m lucky the occasional conversation on GChat. I’m not really part of any social group, I don’t get invited to be on podcasts – heck, I don’t get invited to join people’s strike teams in Destiny. So even though my avatar was a blue female robot who could throw fireballs, I felt a bond with her. I could identify with her situation.

(As a side note, Destiny’s much-lauded Raid felt slightly incongruous to me – it might ostensibly be a game about saving the world from encroaching Darkness, but come the endgame it’s almost entirely about the pursuit of self-betterment, about trying to grab newer, shinier, more powerful gear. Playing in a group and having to communicate and work together is a nice idea, but it’s not exactly in keeping with the game’s philosophy.)

Either way, once I hit a wall at Level 27, the appeal began to pall. By that stage, Destiny had become too much like real life: I was working harder for ever-decreasing returns, and even the Darkness started to feel like a metaphor for a certain ongoing struggle in the games industry. By that stage I’d invested 70+ hours and had no legendary drops. Given that real life’s RNG hadn’t been particularly kind to me this year, either, Destiny was beginning to hit a little too close to home.

I’ll still probably go back when the DLC lands, mind.

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